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Welcome to our review of 2020

2020 has been an exceptional year, one with many unpredicted and unprecedented events. 
The stories highlighted below demonstrate that the world-leading art and design thinking, intuition, innovation and outside-of-the-box experimentation which defines our RCA community has remained as strong as ever this year.


computer science visualisation
Computer Science Research Centre, Eva Papamargariti
  • The Computer Science Research Centre was established to explore areas including robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and advanced visualisation and simulation.
  • Students and graduates showcased their digital skills and creative approaches through hands-on sessions at Apple Covent Garden and Regent Street.
  • A two-day conference organised by the MA Writing and the Performance pathway of the MA Contemporary Art Practice brought together practitioners in live art, performance, dance and the visual arts to consider writing and performance.  


Grand Challenge Workshop 2020, using balloons to explore the power of the collective.
Grand Challenge Workshop 2020
  • The RCA was ranked the number 1 university for art and design internationally for the sixth consecutive year according to the QS World University Rankings by subject.

  • The RCA work-in-progress exhibitions took place across all three campuses, and the Winter Convocation took place at the Royal Geographic Society, with honorary doctorates awarded to RCA alumni Bridget Riley, Frank Bowling and Asif Kapadia. 

  • Supported by Logitech and CERN IdeaSquare, 400 students from across the School of Design worked together on the Grand Challenge 2020.

  • Diverse topics, from the climate crisis to cultural heritage, spirituality and the virtualities of storytelling itself were explored in the Digital Direction graduate exhibition.

  • MA City Design students took part in a week-long symposium at MPavilion, Australia’s leading architecture commission and cultural laboratory in Queen Victoria Gardens, Melbourne. 


colourful textiles
Jonna Saarinen, Specialist Technical Instructor in Printed Textiles

  • An independent report by Beauhurst and Parkwalk Advisors concluded that InnovationRCA came third in terms of number of deals secured by its spin-outs in 2019, behind only Oxford and Cambridge universities. 
  • Dr Jiayu Wu, Senior Research Fellow in the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre, was awarded a £55k Design Fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to conduct a systematic review of UK university-led design driven research into mobility innovation.

  • Hidden 2020 showcased work from over 80 of our technical and non-academic staff revealing the passion and talent across the College.
  • Limen, a work by Ceramics & Glass Tutor Dr Heike Brachlow (PhD Ceramics & Glass, 2012, MA 2006) became part of the V&A’s world-leading collection.


Container on truckfront
Container on truckfront, OpenCell

  • The College rapidly adapted to Covid-19, with staff and students working remotely and teaching online, while designers and artists from the wider RCA community adapted their skills to help meet the unprecedented demands of the pandemic. The College launched the RCA Emergency Fund (Back on Track) to help mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 faced by RCA students.
  • MA Design Products alumnus, Milo Mcloghlin-Greening worked with teams at healthcare design studio Cellule and 3D printing facility to design and produce over 11,000 Batch.Shields for COVID-19 front line workers.

  • An online festival, 302_Redirect, showcased the work of MA Contemporary Art Practice students amidst the newly pressing and uncertain, techno-centric art world.

  • MA Intelligent Mobility launched their graduate projects online, asking critical questions about the future of travel and mobility. 


Asif Kapadia
Asif Kapadia

  • RCA Chancellor Sir Jony Ive kicked-off a series of online talks embracing new opportunities for online learning. The series included RCA Alumnus and Land Rover Chief Creative Officer, Professor Gerry McGovern OBE, oscar-winning film director Asif Kapadia and CEO of Off-White™ and Artistic Director Louis Vuitton Men's, Virgil Abloh.

  • A research project in collaboration with Thammasat University, Thailand, received a second portion of funding from the RCA’s quality-related (QR) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) development fund.

  • Current PhD student, Yu Lun Eve Lin’s book The Practice of Fashion Drawing became one of Taiwan’s national textbooks for fashion.


screenshot from dis-connect website
Dis-connect: Communication in the Age of Isolation
screenshot of Book Test Unit website

  • The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design (HHCD) announced the establishment of the Design Age Institute.
  • MA Curating Contemporary Art (CCA) graduating students presented projects online in collaboration with leading UK-based art organisations.

  • In partnership with the BT Archives, MRes RCA: Communication Design students created an online publication exploring the future of telecommunication in the age of the pandemic.

  • The Intelligent Mobility Design Centre held an online, cross-College research symposium with speakers from the RCA as well as TfL, University of Cambridge and The University of Tokyo.

  • Photography student Ioanna Sakellaraki won Student Photographer of the Year 2020 in the Sony World Photography Awards.


RCA2020 logo
RCA2020 logo

  • RCA2020 showcased the work of 836 graduates from across our four Schools to a global audience.
  • Degrees were conferred on 826 Master’s, 65 Graduate Diploma, 26 Doctoral, 6 MRes, 7 PgDip, 3 MPhil, and 2 PgCert students.
  • The topping out of our New Battersea Campus designed by Herzog & de Meuron was celebrated with a drone fly through
  • Students from the MA Writing programme relaunched ARC, a student led publication with a 50 year history at the College, with an online edition ARC: The Dirty Issue.


MA Design Products student, Giovanni Dipilato (Left) and MA Information Experience Design student, Leon Hapka (Right)
MA Design Products student, Giovanni Dipilato (Left) and MA Information Experience Design student, Leon Hapka (Right)


The Tyre Collective
The Tyre Collective

  • Current RCA Painting student Sabrina Shah won the £10,000 Castlegate Art Prize with a painting about consumerism, expulsion, ingestion and the freedom and courage to act, think and respond.


Electronic Tapestry – Retired objects
Electronic Tapestry – Retired objects, Shawn Adams 2020


Research Project Case Study, BBSRC
Research Project Case Study, BBSRC, Dr Miriam Ribul


Once Upon A Time, Curated By Mayuri Upadhya for the Serendipity Arts Festival 2019
Once Upon A Time, Curated By Mayuri Upadhya for the Serendipity Arts Festival 2019
  • The RCA’s annual Christmas Fête, hosted by the RCA Students' Union, offered unique presents and hand-crafted gifts directly from our artists and designers via Instagram. 

Find out more about what goes on at the RCA during our online Work in Progress show in January 2021.